UCL Institute of Ophthalmology


Macular Society funded 3-Year PhD studentship

We are welcoming applications for a 3-year PhD studentship funded by the Macular Society. Closes Monday 17 July

UCL Department / Division: UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
Duration of Studentship: 3 years, available to start from 25 September, 2023
PhD Title: Towards a broadly applicable gene therapy for dry AMD.
Supervisor(s): Professor Karl Matter, Professor James Bainbridge, and Professor Maria S. Balda

We are offering a full-time, 3-year PhD studentship to investigate the molecular and cellular processes underlying a recently developed new approach for a broadly applicable gene therapy for dry AMD that is based on a Rho GTPase signalling mechanism in retinal pigment epithelial cells.

The post offers an exciting opportunity for someone to play a key role in research at the interface of molecular cell biology and applied biomedical sciences. The project is based on previous work that led to the identification of molecular signalling mechanisms that control epithelial polarization and, in the retinal pigment epithelium, phagocytosis (NCB 2017, JCB 2013, JCB 2022). The project will focus on the development of a molecular therapy and its application to mouse models for inherited and age-related eye diseases.

The project will enable a student to learn and apply a range of molecular and cell biological approaches as well as methods required to analyse ocular disease models. The project will require in vitro and in vivo work using a range of techniques and models ranging from stem cell-derived RPE cells to genetically modified mice. 

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a minimum upper-second degree or equivalent in a relevant subject such as cell and/or molecular biology, biochemistry, or biomedical sciences. Knowledge in signal transduction, regulation of gene expression, and a Master’s degree/previous lab-based research experience are desirable.

Duties and Responsibilities 
The successful candidate is expected to: 

  • Culture RPE cell lines and primary cultures 
  • Differentiate RPE cells from human embryonic stem cells
  • Maintain mouse colonies and perform experiments with mice
  • Perform molecular manipulations using AAV vectors
  • Employ a range of fluorescence microscopes (epifluorescence, confocal, etc.) 
  • Work in collaboration with other researchers 
  • Prepare progress reports 
  • Prepare presentations 
  • Travel for collaboration and other meetings or conferences 
  • Prepare manuscripts for submission to international peer-reviewed journals 
  • Contribute to the overall activities of the research team, department and be aware of UCL policies 

Person Specification 

  • A good degree (2.1 or above; or equivalent EU/overseas degree) and/or MSc in a relevant subject such as cell and/or molecular biology, biochemistry, or biomedical sciences 
  • Experience with basic biochemical and molecular laboratory methods 
  • Experience with basic microscopy 
  • Excellent methodological skills, particularly in project planning 
  • High proficiency in written and spoken English is required 
  • Very strong work ethic, with the ability to think creatively and work both individually and within a team

Informal enquiries should be made to Professor Karl Matter (k.matter@ucl.ac.uk)

How to apply
Applicants should submit an application to the Research Degrees Manager ioo.pgr@ucl.ac.uk. You will be required to submit a CV, a covering letter outlining motivation, interest, and suitability for this project, and contact details for two academic referees.

Enquiries relating to the application process should be sent to the Research Degrees Manager at ioo.pgr@ucl.ac.uk

Shortlisted candidates will be contacted directly for interview. 

The successful candidate is expected to start 25 September 2023, but flexibility with respect to the start date is possible.

Funding Notes
This studentship is funded for 3 years by the Macular Society and includes UK UCL PhD tuition fees, laboratory costs and an annual salary stipend starting at £20,000. 

The full studentship (tuition fees and salary stipend) is eligible to all UK nationals and some EU nationals depending on their settlement status. Only UK Home rate tuition fees can be covered.

Applicants who will incur international fees are welcome to apply but they must show that they can supplement the difference between UK and international fees in their application.

Application deadline: 17 July 2023
Proposed interview date: TBC